Beyond Belief: Contruction Labour and Housing Costs

Remember when Prime Minister Turnbull and Immigration Minister Dutton blamed unionized construction workers for the high cost of housing in Australia? The idea that workers (not property speculators or bankers) are to blame for the property bubble is pretty far-fetched -- in fact, it sparked a viral storm on social media, using the #blameunions hashtag.

We've looked in detail at the empirical data regarding the relationship (or lack thereof) between unions, construction wages, and housing prices.  The results are surprising...

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Go Home on Time: Wednesday 23 November

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The Centre for Future Work is proud to host this year's Go Home on Time Day.  It's the eighth annual edition of this event, which draws light-hearted attention to a serious issue: the economic, social, and health consequences of excess working hours.

This year's Go Home on Time Day is Wednesday, November 23.  Visit our special Go Home on Time Day website for more information, to download posters and other materials, and use our online calculator to estimate the value of YOUR unpaid overtime.

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Government's welfare attacks and precarious work

Last weekend's edition of The Saturday Paper featured an in-depth analysis by journalist Mike Seccombe, dissecting the Coalition government's attempts to scapegoat welfare programs for Australia's labour market and fiscal problems.  The article included several statistics from the Centre for Future Work, as well as from our colleague Richard Denniss (Chief Economist at the Australia Institute).  With decent paid work increasingly hard to find, it's no wonder the government targets income-support payments for working-age Australians: there are both political reasons (shifting blame) and a perverse economic logic (reinforcing the compulsion on desperate workers to accept any job, no matter how insecure or badly-paid) behind the government's strategy.  Here is a link to the full article.


A Ringing but Ineffective Defense of Globalization

Economic elites around the world are rightly alarmed by the rise of right-wing populism, many streams of which (like the Brexit movement and Donald Trump) have directly challenged previous policies of free trade and capital mobility.  Here in Australia, the One Nation party exemplifies some similar isolationist and xenophobic tendencies.

However, the main response of these elites to the challenge has been to simply double down on their standard argument that globalization as currently practiced is universally and self-evidently beneficial.  Apart from temporary "transition difficulties" (that could easily be addressed with assistance for training and relocation), everyone is a winner.  To counter the rise of populism, they urge governments to step up their efforts to "educate" concerned citizens about the virtues of free trade.  Commonwealth Treasurer Scott Morrison made a strong statement in this vein recently to a business audience in Sydney.

Unfortunately, the real world economy doesn't actually work like the theoretical models predict, and denying that anyone is permanently hurt by globalization both flies in the face of empirical evidence, and will be ineffective in countering populist arguments.  Instead, politicians should acknowledge that globalization is producing both loses and winners, and implement policies to reduce the costs and share the benefits.  Here is Director Jim Stanford's commentary on Mr. Morrison's speech, published in the Huffington Post.


An Epidemic of Unpaid Work

In today's chronically depressed labour market, workers will go to unprecedented lengths to find and keep a job -- even agreeing to work for free!  ABC's RN program Future Tense recently explored the rising prevalence of unpaid work in Australia's economy, including staying at work after hours, taking your work home with you (such as e-mails that never stop), and unpaid internships.

The program features an interview with Centre Economist and Director Jim Stanford on the economic causes, and consequences, of unpaid work.  Access the interview here (click "Download Audio" to hear the show).  ABC Online also published a news story based on the program, available here.


What's Wrong With Privatization?

You know that the tides of public opinion are starting to turn, when even the head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Mr. Rod Sims, will come out in public and criticize the usual claims that privatization is good for efficiency and national well-being.

Our Director Jim Stanford recently spoke with Unions NSW about this surprising development, and the general flaws in the argument for privatization.  Here is the video!


Auto Industry Closure Another Economic Blow

We’ve known for over two years that this day was coming.  But that won't ease its economic and social pain.  The shutdown of Australia's mass motor vehicle assembly industry is now upon us.  Ford’s assembly plant in Broadmeadows, Victoria, was the first to go dark: the final Aussie-made Ford has already rolled off the assembly line.  Remaining workers are preparing the factory’s final shutdown.  Holden’s assembly plant in Elizabeth, SA, and Toyota’s Altona factory (also in Victoria), are scheduled to close next year; both have already begun phasing down production.  Engine plants operated by Ford and Holden will also close.

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Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

The state government of New South Wales recently awarded a contract for the purchase of 512 new intercity passenger rail cars to a consortium that will manufacture the equipment in South Korea.  The contract is worth $2.3 billion, including an unspecified sum to cover maintenance of the double-decker cars over an initial 15-year period.  The government chose to import the cars from Korea instead of purchasing made-in-Australia products, claiming this was the "cheapest" option.  However, major government purchases have important indirect effects on many economic, social, and fiscal variables: including GDP, employment, incomes, exports, and even government revenues.  A comprehensive cost-benefit analysis must take those broader impacts into consideration; governments should make decisions that maximize the overall social net benefit of procurement, not simply minimize the up-front purchase cost to government.

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The Flawed Economics of Cutting Penalty Rates

It was a "sleeper" issue in the recent election, and led to the defeat of some high-profile Liberal candidates.  But now the debate over penalty rates for work on weekends and public holidays shifts to the Fair Work Commission.  The economic arguments in favour of cutting penalties (as advocated by lobbyists for the retail and hospitality sectors) are deeply flawed.

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Four Corners: Future Proof

Regardless of who wins the Federal election, the major issue facing Australians is the future of work.

There are startling and credible predictions that more than five million Australian jobs will simply disappear in the next 15 years, as a result of technology. That's 40% of the jobs that exist in Australia today.

The Centre for Future Work spoke to Four Corners about insecure work and what's coming down the pipeline for workers.

Click here to watch the full Four Corners report.



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